COVID continues to rear its ugly head on sports and the world in general. The NHL has announced that games involving the Flames, Panthers and Avalanche have all been postponed until after Christmas, while Saturday’s Bruins / Canadiens clash has also been postponed. Here is a list of the games concerned (except Boston / Montreal).
Postponing games cannot be an easy decision. There are business reasons, which are obvious (no box office income). Maybe a break is needed until after Christmas in order to stop the spread of COVID, but will the COVID situation be better after the holidays? We may consider an even longer layoff, if the graphics showing the rapid spread of the omicron variant to other parts of the world occur in North America. Either way, just get ready for an early NHL vacation break. It’s boring, but that’s the situation we find ourselves in.
Early today, John Tavares and Alex Kerfoot were added to the COVID protocol list. The Leafs thought they were getting good news when Jason Spezza’s suspension was reduced from six to four games and he could return on Saturday, but Spezza and Wayne Simmonds were also added to the roster. It will certainly create problems for the Leafs for their game in Vancouver.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nicklas Backstrom were also added to the ever-growing list of COVID protocols on Friday.
Friday was no shortage of news, as Paul Maurice suddenly announced his resignation from the coach of the Jets. Earlier today, I wrote Fantasy Take. We didn’t have to wait very long for the Dave Lowry era to begin, as the Jets faced Washington on Friday. Here are the evenly matched lines of power and power play combinations that Lowry used for this game, from Frozen Tools:
EV – FRONT
PAUL STASTNY – MARK SCHEIFELE – NIKOLAJ EHLERS
ADAM LOWRY – DOMINIC TONINATO – ANDREW COPP
EVGENY SVECHNIKOV – PIERRE-LUC DUBOIS – KYLE CONNOR
JANSEN HARKINS – KRISTIAN VESALAINEN – DAVID GUSTAFSSON
VE – DEFENSE
BRENDEN DILLON – NEAL PIONK
NATE SCHMIDT – JOSH MORRISSEY
DYLAN DEMELO – LOGAN STANLEY
PP – FORWARD
MARK SCHEIFELE – ANDREW COPP – PIERRE-LUC DUBOIS – KYLE CONNOR
PAUL STASTNY – ADAM LOWRY – NIKOLAJ EHLERS
PP – DEFENSE
NATE SCHMIDT – JOSH MORRISSEY
Even lines of force appeared to have been put into a mixer compared to the last three lines of play, but the lines of power play didn’t seem to change at all. That’s bad news for those hoping Nikolaj Ehlers would get an instant power-play upgrade as Ehlers stayed on the second power-play. The good news is that Ehlers collected assists on goals for both Jets and had seven shots in 19 minutes of ice time. He might get his promotion another day.
An ice time total that stood out was Andrew Copp, who led all of Winnipeg’s players (not just forwards, but also defensemen) with a season record of 23:25. Despite the ice time, Copp was held scoreless for the fifth straight game. Despite being used on both power play and penalty kill, Copp has a starting 61.9 OZ% this season, which is by far the highest of his career. He could be a player to watch in Lowry’s system.
Despite the 5-2 loss to Washington, a good sign for the Jets was the fact that they had 42 shots. Vitek Vanecek was up for the Capitals, stopping 40 of those shots.
For the Capitals, Alex Ovechkin did it again, scoring one goal while shooting eight shots. Daniel Sprong scored a goal and added an assist while taking seven shots. For Sprong, this is the second game in a row where he has scored a goal. He had also shot 13 shots in those two games, so he started to warm up.
Evan Rodrigues was a touch in the exchange that sent Conor Sheary back to Pittsburgh for Dominik Kahun on the 2020 deadline, but he’s been way more than that for the Penguins. Facing the Buffalo team who traded him, Rodrigues continued his breakout season with another goal and nine shots, six of which were in the first period alone. Rodrigues has 23 points in 29 games (a 65-point pace), which includes seven points and a plus-6 in his last five games. Rodrigues also leads the injury-exhausted Penguins with 98 shots.
Playing only his second game for Buffalo, Malcolm Subban stopped 45 of 48 shots he faced to get a quality start, but sadly not the win in a 3-2 overtime loss. Subban made 20 saves in the first half alone, including this one where he showed incredible flexibility. Watch the entire clip, including the aerial camera replay.
Just because COVID is rampant doesn’t mean ordinary injuries are gone. One example is Artemi Panarin, who missed Friday’s game with a lower body injury. That meant it was up to Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad to carry the score for Rangers. Each scored a goal and added an assist in Rangers’ 3-2 loss to Vegas. Zibanejad fired seven shots, while Kreider fired five. Kreider’s goal was his first in six games, while Zibanejad has scored in consecutive games. Kreider has five points in his last two games; Zibanejad, four points over this period.
Between off-season commercial demand and declining production, Vladimir Tarasenko was not at the top of my list of projects entering the season. Turns out my teammates weren’t trying very hard to draft it either, so I was able to select it after picking 100 in two of my leagues when it became difficult to find a right winger who could score.
After worrying that I always picked him too high, Tarasenko has turned out to be one of my top picks, as he’s producing at a near point per game rate (28 points in 30 games) so far this season. Tarasenko scored two goals on Friday, giving him five points in his last two games and nine points in his last six. After several surgeries, his shoulder seems to be fine again, as he is back to shooting the puck with regularity (3.4 SOG / GP).
Pavel Buchnevich assisted on Tarasenko’s two goals. He’s also been hot recently, scoring 17 points in his last 12 games.
Ivan Barbashev was the third man on that line and scored one goal and one assist, giving him 13 points in his last 11 games. Barbashev has had an increase in the value on this score line and also the first unit’s power play time recently, so it’s worth adding for now if it’s still available. This is especially the case in banger leagues, as he averages almost two hits per game. Just beware of a possible regression, as some of Barbashev’s advanced stats (23.4% SH, 2.7 PTS / 60, 41.7 Sec Asst%) are higher than normal.
Even with eight players in COVID protocol, the Nashville Predators extended their winning streak to seven games. Tanner Jeannot scored the winner in overtime, giving him six points in his last five games. Jeannot was also credited with six hits, adding to his total of 92 hits. With all the protocol players, Jeannot has now played at least 22 minutes in each of his last two games. He plays on what appears to be the Preds’ best line with Colton Sissons and Filip Forsberg. Jeannot is worth adding right now, especially in leagues that have hitting hits.
I mentioned Sissons yesterday as a player who takes advantage of the absences of Matt Duchene and Ryan Johansen. Sissons also scored a goal on Friday, giving him six points in his last four games.
All wins at Nashville mean Juuse Saros is on a five-game winning streak. He also has quality starts in seven of his last eight games, which makes him a staple.
The Arizona Coyotes have the worst offense in the league (under two goals per game), and it’s not really that close. So it’s possible that you caught off guard that they scored six goals on Friday. Because preventing goals is a challenge for the Coyotes as well, they needed extra time to take out Anaheim.
Clayton Keller led the charge with two goals (including the overtime winner) and one assist and seven shots in over 23 minutes of ice time. Keller now has multiple points in back-to-back games and has shot 15 shots in his last two games. On a longer stretch, Keller has 16 points in his last 13 games. The Coyotes’ top scorer may be an afterthought (just 22% registered in Yahoo leagues) because he’s playing in the wilderness, but he’s at least trying to shake things up with the lack of high-end talent. that the Coyotes leadership provided him with. Put him on a better team and you’ll appreciate his skills.
Max Comtois returned to the Ducks roster on Friday after missing a month, and he had a great opportunity alongside Ryan Getzlaf and Troy Terry. Comtois did not score a point, however.
Hampus Lindholm came out of his slump, scoring twice while adding an assist and taking seven shots. Lindholm came into this game without any type of point in his last six games.